Source origin of trace elements in PM from regional background, urban and industrial sites of Spain

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Despite their significant role in source apportionment analysis, studies dedicated to the identification of tracer elements of emission sources of atmospheric particulate matter based on air quality data are relatively scarce. The studies describing tracer elements of specific sources currently available in the literature mostly focus on emissions from traffic or large-scale combustion processes (e.g. power plants), but not on specific industrial processes. Furthermore, marker elements are not usually determined at receptor sites, but during emission. In our study, trace element concentrations in PM10 and PM2.5 were determined at 33 monitoring stations in Spain throughout the period 1995–2006. Industrial emissions from different forms of metallurgy (steel, stainless steel, copper, zinc), ceramic and petrochemical industries were evaluated. Results obtained at sites with no significant industrial development allowed us to define usual concentration ranges for a number of trace elements in rural and urban background environments. At industrial and traffic hotspots, average trace metal concentrations were highest, exceeding rural background levels by even one order of magnitude in the cases of Cr, Mn, Cu, Zn, As, Sn, W, V, Ni, Cs and Pb. Steel production emissions were linked to high levels of Cr, Mn, Ni, Zn, Mo, Cd, Se and Sn (and probably Pb). Copper metallurgy areas showed high levels of As, Bi, Ga and Cu. Zinc metallurgy was characterised by high levels of Zn and Cd. Glazed ceramic production areas were linked to high levels of Zn, As, Se, Zr, Cs, Tl, Li, Co and Pb. High levels of Ni and V (in association) were tracers of petrochemical plants and/or fuel-oil combustion. At one site under the influence of heavy vessel traffic these elements could be considered tracers (although not exclusively) of shipping emissions. Levels of Zn–Ba and Cu–Sb were relatively high in urban areas when compared with industrialised regions due to tyre and brake abrasion, respectively.